Ethereum Plans to Delay Difficulty Bomb on ‘Muir Glacier’ Hard Fork
Recently, the difficulty bomb kicked in on Ethereum and became ever so noticeable, with average block times increasing by almost two seconds over a month. In response to this, Eric Conner brought the gravity of this situation to the community’s attention and drafted EIP 2384. Two days later, Ethereum developer James Hancock, drafted EIP 2387 to finalize the technical specifications, December 10, 2019.
What Delaying the Ice Age Means
During the Byzantium and Constantinople hard forks, Ethereum devs pushed back the difficulty bomb by three million and two million blocks respectively. However, it once again crept up on the community just a few weeks prior to Istanbul.
Eric Conner, a product manager at GNosis and long time Ethereum enthusiast, noticed increasing block times and realized the difficulty bomb was starting to set in.
Every 100,000 blocks, the difficulty level upgrades. If block times are closer to 20 seconds the difficulty goes down, but if it trends towards 10 seconds, it causes the difficulty to rise. One of the biggest hindrances to tweaking difficulty is that it is embedded in the block time targeting mechanism. Hence, delays have been the only reasonable option as opposed to removing it or changing the entire mechanism.
In short, this means the difficulty bomb is being put off for another four million blocks, which is about two years. The Muir Glacier hard fork is reportedly scheduled for early January 2020 – around the same time ETH 2.0 is launched.
Bitcoin vs Ethereum Upgrade Process
The Bitcoin community is very vocal of their condemnation of hard forks. According to them, the core codebase must remain intact and not be susceptible to change by developers unless absolutely necessary.
Even in the event of entities attempting to usurp the Bitcoin blockchain, the community fights back using soft forks (most of the time).
Ethereum on the other hand hard forks and upgrades network specs on a fairly regular basis. None of these forks have been contentious with the exception of the post DAO hack hard fork, which was not a scheduled upgrade anyway.
The difference in conduct and execution is quite intriguing and makes for truly coherent arguments from both sets of proponents. Bitcoin takes the immutable path trying to limit changes as much as possible, whilst Ethereum’s community embrace changes and tweaks that seek to improve user experience.